Friday, January 18, 2013
ACTION MOVIE WORLD: FIRST BLOOD
(and yes, it is always, always in caps)
Work is rolling on what I hope ends up being a commercial AW hack. I'm ready to crack the door open a little bit more on it, since it's progressing more quickly than I expected.
Yes, it's about action movies of the 80s/90s variety. I'm aiming to deconstruct the common threads connecting American action movies of the era before building them back up in game form. +Bret Gillan has been of great help in shoring up some ideas. It was kind of limbo for a few months after we initially dove in, but once I sat down a few days ago and actually wrote at length, it really began to gel.
Now, I know there are plenty of AW hacks out there. I hope some of the ideas pique the interest of people who might be inclined to wander away from "another AW hack". In somewhat brief form, some highlights of what AMW:FB is going to do:
-One of the big things is that there's a bit of a "meta" aspect to AMW:FB. Drawing a bit of inspiration from +Nathan Paoletta's currently in beta pro wrestling AW hack, the action is both real and not real, scripted and unscripted. Players of AMW:FB will be playing in the sort of unscripted fashion you would expect: outcomes are decided at the table, people die, people fall in love, etc. This is just as you would play any other AW engine game; no railroading allowed and player control is front and center. But it's also not real and is scripted, if only in retrospect: the action happens on an imaginary screen in a theater somewhere. Your character might die but your actor won't. It's going to require a dual-track in your head and I need to firm up the language, but that's why it's rough draft.
-Playbooks are going to represent actors in this very meta sense. This is to represent Arnold being Arnold in all of his movies. So if you pick The Musclehead, you are, in a very real sense, picking a brand. The Arnold Brand. Or, if you pick The Pugilist, you're picking the JCVD Brand (before it became passe, of course). That's what you will be throughout your movies. Typecasting is the goal.
This bit is also "genreless". The idea is that there's this larger, super-genre called "action movies" which is an umbrella for the individual types of action movie people know and enjoy. Actor Playbook moves are designed to be plugged into any of those individual genres, rather than tied to assumptions about what type of movie your group is playing.
-What are movies? In addition to the Actor Playbooks, the game will have Movie Playbooks. These contain your setting assumptions. It's expected that the group will play a Movie for four or so sessions before wrapping up and choosing another one. A Movie Playbook (and I may call them Scripts) will have your gear options, charts to help organize a loose plot for the movie, some Fiasco style relationship building help, and special moves. This is where the character/actor distinction really shows up. You can be Barnold Dortsenegger the Musclehead playing Tronan the Beerbarian for the length of the movie. All played by Joe, the real person.
The movie moves. This deserves a bit more explication. Each Movie Playbook will have four or so moves which are tightly tied to the movie genre being played. Each player will pick one. For the duration of that particular movie, he'll get that move, with an option to make it permanent through experience spending later (which leads to some wacky crossgenre potential with enough spending).
So, going back to The Musclehead, he comes in with two Musclehead moves (we'll say +1 to Muscles and a move which helps him with stunts based on that stat). Everyone decides to pick a Ninja Movie Playbook. Not what big meatheads are known for, but fine. Looking at the list, he decides he really wants a move which lets him disappear in a puff of smoke. For the duration of the ninja movie, he has that move and can use it normally. He can make it permanent at the end, if he wants, and it becomes a sort of calling card, integral to his brand.
The combination of Actor Playbook and Movie Playbook should offer a wide variety of styles of play while both staying under the action movie umbrella and providing a sly wink that it's just a movie.
-Other things will be done to model some of the conventions. Incentives to allow your PC to die horribly (we need high body counts), a rotating lead role capacity which allows a certain level of immunity to death, tying certain GM moves to a player picked lead bad guy role (again, based on actor... pick Danny Trejo OR Tex Cobb analogues), and a stat based on friendship which allows powerful moves on the part of the group. These are more mechanically shored up than I'm communicating here because I've already gone on quite a bit.
Anyway, it's in very obviously rough draft status, but work is going quickly, as I said. I'm glossing over a lot of details above; it's not prototype status but it's not quite ready for public consumption, either. I may be looking for playtesters in a month. Maybe a little less. When the time comes I'll be posting on G+ and maybe here. My hope is that it ends up being something cool that people want to play.